After I watched the Salem City Council kill the Salem River Crossing or Third Bridge project last night, my first reaction was to feel deeply thankful toward the six councilors who did the right thing by saving Salem from this Billion Dollar Boondoggle.
But with a bit more reflection, my thankfulness expanded to include many hundreds, in fact many thousands, of people who stopped the Third Bridge.
Most broadly -- and in some ways most importantly -- everybody who worked so hard to elect the six progressive councilors on the nine-member City Council. The Third Bridge would have continued on with no serious roadblocks if the Council had remained dominated by conservatives and a lonely progressive, Tom Andersen.
Thus arguably the unsung heroes in this saga of people-power triumphing over money-power are the people who donated money, knocked on doors, and otherwise helped with the campaigns of Tom Andersen, Cara Kaser, Sally Cook, Matt Ausec, Chris Hoy, and Jackie Leung. Progressive Salem greatly aided these campaigns, with the notable exception of Leung's.
Salem owes all of you a big debt of gratitude, along with the voters who cast their ballots for these six progressives. This debt can't be quantified, even though a billion dollars is a defensible nice round number.
Next, a big shout-out to those who appealed the City of Salem's go-ahead for an expansion of the Urban Growth Boundary to accommodate a Salem River Crossing bridgehead. When the Land Use Board of Appeals ruled in favor of the appellants on several "assignments of error," it was clear that the project was doomed.
Because the legal remand back to the City Council to address the errors meant that the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the Third Bridge would be on hold until the Council acted to fix the problems. Last night, the Council voted not to do this, which killed the project (since a deadline for completing the DEIS was coming up).
So massive thanks go to those who petitioned LUBA: Sarah Deumling, Linda Wallmark, Gary Wallmark, Linda Bierly, Ken Bierly, James (Jim) Scheppke, Robert Cortright, and Doug Parrow. E.M. Easterly joined in as an Intervenor-Petitioner. John Gear served as their able attorney.
I'll add that last night Councilor Jim Lewis, an avid Third Bridge supporter, posed a ridiculous question to Cortright after Cortright testified against moving the project forward. Lewis asked why the LUBA petitioners didn't appeal the decision, since they prevailed on only a few rather minor points.
Well, duh, if Lewis had read the press release issued by the No 3rd Bridge folks after the LUBA ruling, he would have seen:
The eight citizen petitioners who brought the appeal are very pleased with the remand. They urge that Salem pursue a number of less-costly actions to address traffic congestion problems rather than try to repeat the UGB expansion process to accommodate the new bridge on the new route.
In other words, once Third Bridge supporters were a minority on the City Council, there was no way the UGB expansion was going to happen.
No UGB expansion meant no final Environmental Impact Statement. No EIS meant no Third Bridge. Thus Cortright simply told Lewis that he was pleased the Council was revisiting the legal issues, since he was confident the six progressive councilors wouldn't want to address the assignments of error.
I just said No 3rd Bridge folks, as in plural, but in large part the group's Facebook page and organizing efforts were led by one guy, Jim Scheppke. Yes, he had help.
Scott Bassett initiated the fight against the Third Bridge and deserves a lot of credit for his solid research on the drawbacks of this project. Scheppke then was instrumental in keeping the drawbacks of the Third Bridge in the public eye through frequent Facebook posts over a number of years and other means.
As did the Salem Breakfast on Bikes blogger (summary here), and yes, me (Third Bridge posts here). Ken Adams conducted a great CCTV interview of Bob Cortright, and likely informed people about the Third Bridge in other ways.
The citizen members of the initial Salem River Crossing Task Force helped out by voting for a "no build" option, as this showed that while bureaucrats and special interest groups favored the Third Bridge, the general public and Salem neighborhood associations were opposed.
Surely there are other people who were instrumental in stopping the Third Bridge who I haven't mentioned. Accept my thanks in abstentia.
Lastly, I want to thank those who helped kill the Third Bridge by their clumsy support of it.
This includes several Salem mayors, most recently Chuck Bennett. Heavy-handed politicking with rampant fact-free spin-doctoring by public officials and the Chamber of Commerce helped sway people against the project, as did a failure to reach out to opponents and seek common ground.
The green-shirted Salem Bridge Solutions group didn't advance its cause by spreading similar blatant falsehoods, along with a notorious display of bad behavior at a West Salem Neighborhood Association meeting. With friends like that, it's no wonder the Third Bridge has died a well-deserved death.
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